General FAQ:

1.) What are “like notifications” and why do you want me to turn them off?


This allows for equitable use of the “groups” feed. People reply at a much slower rate than they read and react. A single person hitting “like” twenty times can quickly push out the variety of responses from different members. It is totally fine to leave everything else at the default “allow everyone to see,” for liking critiques, replying to threads, etc. Nothing else occurs so quickly it becomes inequitable.

2.) Can I start a personal thread for my work in the main forum?

Yes, absolutely. Anyone may form one, though on slower teams they may fall into disuse. Generally, at the chapter-a-week pace, it is possible for a team to discuss all issues in everyone’s chapters, so most draft teams find it easier to keep the whole discussion in the main team thread. Personal threads are necessary for beta features, where 20 pages of discussion may spawn on a single work in a day.

Title it “Personal thread: [name of your book].” Cycle number / team name optional.

3.) Do I need to keep things officially in the Ubergroup forums? The whole Ubergroup, or just my team?

We highly suggest keeping everything in the Ubergroup so it can be moderated. Some teams prefer to chat via skype, gchat, or facebook messenger, and that’s fine, but we obviously can’t be responsible for disagreements had outside of our view.

You are welcome and encouraged to browse other team threads, and we highly suggest making your work visible to the entire Ubergroup. Public visibility to all of Scrib is also fine. At a minimum, you may restrict your work to your team, your moderator, and Jerry.

4.) What if I don’t have enough karma to post / this chapter is too long / someone’s work is out of a spotlight!

Critting at this pace, you will quickly aquire more karma than you know what to do with. Although we suggest using personal spotlights to maximize karma availability as a courtesy to your teammates, they are not mandatory, and few people mind a slightly over-long chapter or one that’s fallen out of spotlight. If you are short on karma, there is a requests thread.

You may post a chapter over 3,000 words in length IF

  • it is in a personal spotlight and restricted to the Ubergroup
  • your team has agreed to crit that many words per week
  • it is one dramatic unit that would be marked as one chapter in a print novel, sold as one contiguous short story, or one outline for one novel
  • it is a typical length for your genre and age bracket (4-6k is common in adult scifi, fantasy, and historical.)

You may post more than one dramatic unit together as a single work for critique IF

  • they are a related collection of poetry or flash fiction
  • they are a query-synopsis-first five pages submission package (more than five pages must be in it’s own post)
  • they are two sequential chapters of middle grade fiction (MG frequently has 40-50 chapters averaging 1k apiece, and it is illogical to ask an MG author to spend twice as much karma to post a book half the total length.)
  • they are in a personal spotlight and restricted to the Ubergroup
  • your team has agreed to crit that many words per week

These exceptions have been discussed with Alex Cabal for the purpose of allowing a contiguous, naturalistic reading experience where chapters are not split up, NOT for ‘skimping on karma.’ They apply only to the Ubergroup and nowhere else on Scrib.

Please do not abuse the spirit of this policy; this may result in Alex enacting a hard system-wide limit of 3000 words per work posted.

5.) What is the beta feature? What am I supposed to do with it?

It is a polished manuscript almost ready for agent submission. In addition to the guaranteed beta reads from the rest of the beta team, the back cover blurb is presented to the entire Ubergroup.

We ask everyone to act as a “test bookstore customer.” Would you be hooked if you picked this up in a bookstore? Read only as far as interests you; you are not committed to critiqueing the whole thing. If you lose interest, just drop the author a quick note to let them know where you checked out. At this late stage, it’s very valuable to know how customers in a bookstore would react. If you want to read the whole thing, great! If you don’t, still great! You can give as much or as little feedback as you choose, from full critiques to a simple “The genre and blurb look like something I’d read, so I clicked through, but it started dragging by halfway through the first chapter. If I was in a bookstore I’d have put it down at this point.”

The person is guaranteed full beta reads from their teammates, so your bonus evaluation as someone who has no commitment to read them is always helpful.

There is frequently more than one book up for beta. Although only one will be featured in the bulletin, we highly recommend checking out the master thread each week for others.

BETA-Specific FAQ:

How do I apply for a beta team? Generally speaking, you will query. Each prospective beta captain will post their own submission requirements; it is your responsibility to read and follow their instructions just as it would be for submission to a literary magazine or agent. Upcoming beta teams will be announced centrally in the stickied beta thread and the end-of-cycle “requests” thread, with a link to a discussion thread organised by that captain.

Am I eligible for beta? Generally speaking, you should have a late-stage manuscript that has been fully workshopped at least once, ideally in the Ubergroup, and you must be a veteran Ubergroup member in good standing. Different captains may require higher levels of polish, specific genres or intended publishing methods, or specific CUBA goals.

Am I eligible to captain a beta team? All veteran members in good standing who have fully workshopped one novel in the Ubergroup, on any speed of team, qualify to captain a beta team.

How do beta crits work? You are committed to reading an entire novel in a week, as you would a published book, and giving an overview impression. You are not supposed to be critiquing each chapter, and you are emphatically not supposed to line edit. You may leave reader reactions (“Whoa!” “hahahaha” “Oh, this is so sad,” etc) using an in-line critique form and correct occasional typos (occasional is hereby defined as no more than one word/punctuation mark per chapter) but experience has proven it is almost always impossible to line edit at a beta pace. As of cycle 18, beta participants are categorically forbidden from requesting line edits from their teammates. You may swap line edits on a non-beta-paced team.

In general, a beta crit is a gestalt reaction to plot, character, themes, prose quality, and pacing, left every few chapters, or in one summary critique at the end. It is acceptable to leave only one sum-up critique at the end of an entire book; more commonly, people leave in-depth critiques every 4-6 chapters and passing commentary / small notes in between.

Most of the real work goes on in the discussion thread in the following weeks. You become a committed brainstorming partner to your beta teammates and should continue to check their thread / weigh in when necessary at any time after beta reading their book, with no expiration date.

How does the personal thread work? Each beta candidate should create a thread called “Personal thread: title.” Optionally, you can include the words “Beta: cycle x, week y.” The top post should contain any questions or concerns you may have for readers. As you begin to acquire critiques, it is your responsibility to go through and compile questions–in the thread, please do not pm individual critiquers–to get discussion going. Typical questions include observing what issues all readers seem to agree on and proposing some suggested fixes to ask if people think that will work, or highlighting an issue mentioned by only one reader to see what the others think. On average, the most discussion happens 1-3 weeks after your beta week ends, but there is no statue of limitations and you may continue to post questions and ideas for discussion at any time. It is common to see beta threads resurface several months later as the writer begins revisions after a mental health break, and receive active attention and discussion. Beta threads several years old have resurfaced before, although it is not the Ubergroup’s responsibility if after extremely long periods, eg multiple years, some of your beta partners have gone inactive or left scrib.

How many times can I re-beta the same novel? As many as you like, provided the novel has undergone comprehensive revisions since your last beta. The purpose of beta is to find new problems, not waste people’s time saying the same thing over and over. After completing a beta, you must substantially improve your novel based on existing feedback before applying for another beta. It is acceptable for the revisions to be still in progress while you query.

Can I be on other teams while on beta? As of cycle 18, no.  You are required to go on reserves with all your other teams while you are on a beta team. Experience has said something always goes wrong when people try to do more at once.

Is there a cap on novel length / number of members in beta? There is a collective limit of 450,000 words for ALL novels put together in a single beta cycle. This usually works out to 5 books under 90k, but you can arrange to have less authors with longer books each, or schedule a long book between two short books to offset. Extensive hard-knock experience has demonstrated that scheduling more than 90k per week in reading always ends in disaster and the last few authors getting blown off. The last two weeks of beta must be left unscheduled as “make-up” weeks. It is normal for some teammates to fall slightly behind the pace of others; if they finish critiquing during the cycle they are still on time. This schedule refers to initial critiques only; it is normal for discussion to start fully after the scheduled reading week and continue well into the next cycle.

What is the difference between “demi-beta” and “full speed beta”? Pace of two weeks per book instead of one week per book; otherwise all principles are the same.

What are the rules regarding the “karma-free” or “permanent” spotlight? The karma-free spotlight is intended to lessen the expense of re-unlocking a book that is being beta’d over and over. It may only be used during formal beta, on a work that has already been fully critiqued by an Ubergroup team. It must be the second time you are submitting the work to the Ubergroup. It may only be used on chapters where you do not expect a formal critique (See: “how do beta crits work?”) Traditional, karma-generating spotlights must be used on any chapter where you expect your teammates to type and post an actual critique. At a minimum, this should be your first chapter, for test bookstore customer reactions, and your final chapter, for the wrap-up summary crit. It is suggested you use 4-6 traditional spotlights distributed throughout the book, at key turning points such as the end of an act, or on problem chapters, where people are likely to want to leave a more extensive critique. Please note the karma-free spotlight is experimental and Alex Cabal reserves the right to remove it at any time. If Alex removes the karma-free spotlight, all beta chapters go back to being in traditional spotlights.

What does being a “test bookstore customer” entail? The entire Ubergroup is given a beta feature of the week in the bulletin, and asked to browse the blurb as if they were browsing in a bookstore and, provided it is a style/genre they really would read, give an off-the-cuff reaction as to whether or not they were hooked. You are not required to read the whole thing or give a “proper” critique, although this is welcome if you feel like it. Just a sentence or two letting them know what caught your eye and where they lost you is still very helpful.

A highly polished, eye-catching beta feature will often attract anywhere from 2 to as many as 10 “bonus” readers so thoroughly hooked they read the whole thing and fully participate in beta discussion. If a book does not naturally attract this interest on its own merits, the author should consider that equally educational.

How is the beta feature of the week chosen? The beta feature of the week is chosen from all available weekly betas based on my judgement of the work’s polish level and how recently the work has been featured; unless there are no other options, novels will not be featured more than once every six months no matter how many times they beta in that period. All other beta features will still be available in the weekly post for browsing, and people are encouraged to browse the whole weekly post and play “test bookstore customer” for as many works as they can manage.

What do I / does my captain need to have ready for my beta week? All your chapters must be fully unlocked–they can be recently out of a spotlight–with “natural” chapter breaks. Natural chapter lengths can be over 3,000 words, up to anything demonstrably normal for your genre. You may not cram multiple chapters into one post or otherwise abuse the spirit of a “natural” chapter. The exception is middle grade fiction, where industry-standard chapter lengths average around 1,000-1,500 words with as many as 40-50 chapters per book; middle grade books may post 2 chapters per work for critique.

Your work must be halfway posted and unlocked by 2 weeks before your turn, and fully posted and unlocked by 2 days before your turn. This is to prevent bad planning and last minute “oh shit I have no karma!” disasters. It is suggested (not required) you be fully posted a week early because some readers may get ahead of schedule.

You must submit (clearly where your captain can find it in your team thread) a blurb for your book by the Saturday before your turn, along with acknowledgement that you are fully unlocked and ready to go. This can be the main body of your query or the back cover text. Please include your genre and wordcount rounded to the nearest thousand, a link to your personal thread, and a link to chapter 1. Please see the weekly bulletins for standard formatting. Your captain must repost this in the weekly thread in a timely fashion (on Sunday or Monday.) It is your responsibility to make the blurb and links look exactly as you want them and for everything to be on time in order to be featured either in the bulletin or the weekly thread. Please remember that I cannot announce on Tuesday what you do not post by Monday.

What do I do if I need karma? First, say so in your team thread. Specify how much you need, numerically. People do browse other threads and very often you will find yourself with that karma so quickly you’ll be startled. If that doesn’t get you enough, post in the karma request thread explaining your situation and needs with a numeric value.

It is completely normal to ask for 10-20 karma when unlocking for beta, especially if you are going in week 1. 30-40 karma can usually be found. If you need more than 40 karma, please reconsider the timing of your beta and crit others more first.

Most Ubergroup members critique so prolifically, they end up with a vast store of karma, especially after a beta cycle. Karma requests are typically from new members who need a kick start their first week, or people who are the week 1 beta feature of an upcoming cycle immediately after finishing a draft team round.